White seeks annual reports on voucher students

State Superintendent of Education John White wants the state to issue annual reports on how voucher students are faring without labeling the entire private or parochial schools they attend.

The plan is spelled out in documents for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, which is set the review the issue on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

White plans to discuss his plan with reporters on Monday at 1:30 p.m.

The issue stems from a new state law that expands Louisiana’s voucher program to students who attended public schools rated C, D or F by the state, and whose families met income rules.

The law requires White to decide what sort of testing and other accountability those students will face starting with the 2012-13 school year.

In documents released on Monday, the state Department of Education said voucher students will be subject to annual reports similar to school performance scores, which are issued to all of the state’s roughly 1,300 public schools.

Those scores primarily reflect how students fared on standardized exams, including the LEAP test that fourth and eighth-graders have to pass for promotion.

Backers call the aid scholarships.

Under White’s plan, voucher students would be subject to a “scholarship cohort index,” which will be issued at the end of the school year solely for voucher students.

Schools accepting voucher students that score less than 50 out of a maximum of 150 in the second year of participation and after will be banned from accepting additional voucher students for the next school year.

Students attending such schools would also have the option of transferring to another voucher school.

The plan also says that, if BESE concludes that a school accepting voucher students fails to meet quality standards, it can be removed from the voucher program or banned from accepting new students.

Unlike public school students, White’s plan does not require students to pass LEAP or other tests for promotion.

There is also no indication that private or parochial schools that accept voucher students would be assigned a letter grade like public schools.

More than 10,000 students have applied for the vouchers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who pushed the law, calls the state aid a way out for students trapped in failing public schools.

Two teacher unions and the Louisiana School Boards Association have challenged the law in the 19th Judicial District Court.

They contend that the measure was passed illegally by the Legislature and that it is unconstitutional for the state to use dollars long reserved for public schools to finance tuition and mandatory fees at private and parochial schools.